Sunday, September 29, 2013
Monday, September 23, 2013
I often feel that some exhibitions will go the way of Comdex - a whole series of computer exhibitions in the US which suddenly collapsed in a black hole. Those were the days when phones were phones and the only way to make a video on it was to fiddle around with Powerpoint.
Very early edition of Media Network when Dennis Powell reported on monitoring the US invasion of Grenada in November 1983. We did everything on very ropey old phone lines which must have sounded horrendeous on shortwave. But we got the news out.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
|Working through the Business Model Canvas|
At first, it might seem strange that an accelerator would organise a master class for their mentors. Surely, they already know everything there is to know about entrepreneurship? Indeed several have started up companies on the Hightech Campus which were later sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet we are taking a different approach with our accelerator. We're cherry-picking from the Lean Start Up methodology and adapting it to fit the world of high-tech startups. Since hardware is involved the money needed is more substantial and you can't change a minimum viable product by tweaking a few lines of code. But the rewards are also bigger if you get it right.
Last week, Startupbootcamp HightechXL organised its inaugural Master Class for mentors. It was designed to explain the Business Model Canvas approach we're taking and what we've adapted. It was also a chance for two startups to explain their challenges and how mentors really make a difference. Michail Boloudakis
Co-Founder and CEO of Kinems, one of the 9 teams selected for the 2013 Startupbootcamp program in Amsterdam. He came down to Eindhoven to explain the challenges of building a company that helps builds games for children with a learning disability. In my personal opinion, Kinems was one of the best teams to come out of the Amsterdam program.
|Michail Boloudakis explaining the lessons learned by Kinems|
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
|Mapping out a strategy at the Hightech Campus Eindhoven|
There is a very thoughtful post over on the Lean Startup Blog which caught my eye. That's because I'm working with a team who are adapting the great practical learnings from Silicon Valley and applying them to building successful high-tech companies in Silicon Polder.
In her post today, Lisa Regan, a writer for The Lean Startup Conference notes:
“Two years ago I moved to Beijing...... If you ask people in Asia about Lean Startup methods, they’ll often say, ‘I’m not sure that would work here,’ and in a sense they’re right–many of the familiar methods won’t work if applied unmodified. That’s why I recommend that people focus on ideas rather than tactics. Lean Startup ideas will work even in places as different from Silicon Valley as Asia–the specific tactics will need modifying, though.
“Think, for example, about the way we talk about sales and customer development and the idea of ‘getting out of the building.’ In Silicon Valley, you can go to people and ask them what their problems are, and what solutions they would value, and they’ll be happy to answer you. People in Silicon Valley are accustomed to openly discussing change, and to talking about what’s wrong or needs fixing —it’s culturally accepted there and you get a lot of practice at it. In most of the world, that’s just not the case. If you walk into a manager’s office almost anywhere in Asia and say, ‘I want to talk to you about your problems,’ he’ll tell you that everything’s fine, that he has no problems. He’ll probably suspect that his boss sent you. Right away, by talking in terms of problems and change, you’ve lost that person; they’ll just shut down.
“This is not to say that you can’t get out of the building in Asia, too. But you'll need to do the legwork to get introduced, and to become really known to people before you ask them for help or information".
“Another resistance or challenge faced by people starting businesses in Asia comes from within the startup itself, around getting support from co-founders and investors. There’s often a practice in Asia of locking onto the first idea as ‘the idea.’ Impatient investors and team members give little support to a founder trying to do Customer Development to verify or modify that idea. They often look on this as a waste of time. And then, when customers are not buying the product, the blame will tend to focus inward — on the founder for perceived shortcomings in the product, rather than examining the question of whether the product itself is actually solving a problem.
Many of the challenges Kevin describe resonate with Takashi Tsutsumi. Takashi has been a venture capitalist for fourteen years, investing in technology startups both in Japan and in the United States. Enthusiastic about the scientific approach for a startup, he personally translated both The Four Steps to The Epiphany and The Startup Owner's Manual into Japanese. On weekends, he evangelizes Customer Development and runs a Lean LaunchPad class nationwide in Japan. Takashi spoke to us specifically about what it’s like to try to bring Lean Startup methodologies to a business culture as conservative as Japan’s. He described two challenges, and two pieces of good news. [Ed note: Takashi emphasized to us that his ideas here are his own and not affiliated with any companies that he works for or is involved with.]
“Japan is known for its conservatism and the norm of lifetime employment, both of which result in a lack of entrepreneurship. The following are a few examples.
“Challenge #1: Perfectionism and detail-oriented culture
“Japanese are known for their perfectionism and the Japanese culture is highly detail-oriented. This culture particularly contradicts with minimum viable products. Entrepreneurs worry that they will lose their trust and reputation with customers if their products compromise features, UI/UX, quality, etc. In addition, although entrepreneurs come up with good MVPs, they gradually add more features as customers say that A, B, and Z are missing, resulting in a ‘maximum’ viable product instead. Therefore, one of the keys for success to practicing Lean Startup methodology in Japan is to encourage entrepreneurs to be patient in minimizing their products. I sometimes refer the nice rule of thumb from Eric Ries, ‘Take what you think is right now and cut it in half and do that two more times and ship it back.’
“Challenge #2: Pivot is failure?
“Pivoting is a key Lean Startup concept, but in Japan, pivot mostly means failure. The Japanese perfectionism affects this thinking in that people consider it right to complete a plan once it’s developed. First, this is true for entrepreneurs. They stick to the initial idea (i.e., the hypothesis) even if facts tell them it’s wrong. They just hate to admit being wrong, or they believe themselves too much to change their mind. Second, and more important, stakeholders, such as investors and management, think this, too. Even when entrepreneurs get used to the principle of Lean Startup, in which a pivot is not necessarily a failure but is progress, their stakeholders don’t share the sensibility.
“Good news #1: Perfectionism and detail-oriented culture
“Perfectionism and detail orientation inhibit adapting Lean Startup methodology in Japan, but they turn out to be strengths once people buy in. Once they buy in, entrepreneurs in Japan follow and execute Lean Startup exhaustively.
“Good news #2: Customer Discovery nurtures entrepreneurship
“Customer Discovery is never easy in Japan. Ordinary people do not talk to strangers, knowing they hate unsolicited inquiry. However, the more customers an entrepreneur talks to, the more they learn. What surprises me, however, is that talking to customers also turns non-entrepreneurs to entrepreneurs because they feel a sense of fun and confidence in their idea.
I hope these thoughts encourage you to explore the full post.
In my work with Startupbootcamp HightechXL, a hardware accelerator right in the heart of the High-Tech campus in Eindhoven. With Philips, ASML, NXP next door, and with 60 nationalities on site, it's one of the most inspiring ecosystems I have ever worked in. And it's expanding rapidly so 10,000 people will be on site within a couple of years, 2000 more than now.
Kevin and Takashi are spot on when they say you should adapt the ideas to fit the local culture. We've taken the lessons learned from Eric Ries and Steve Blank and adapted a few things. European VC's usually have a financial background rather than experience in running a start-up themselves. Explaining that a Business Model Canvas needs to come way before any thoughts of a plan are alien to many, especially those who worked in research units that then spun out into their own companies. Companies invented for you, making huge guesses behind high walled fences.
|Plenty of friendly faces at the recent Expat meet and greet in Eindhoven|
Getting start-ups to present their idea in a clear, logical, interesting format is much harder in Europe than in the US. Sometimes it is the language barrier - you write a news story in French or Dutch in a different way to English. It is more like a zoom in rather than a zoom out. Which is why English VC's shout at many European startups to get to the point.
The other challenge is the mainstream media. Science reporting has been seriously neglected by many European public service broadcasters. It is either event journalism with no substance, or foreign material (often excellent) reworked into a local language. That means that local ideas and developments never get the credit they deserve. The work that the Dutch have done with wifi, bluetooth, and chip design are known only to few. That may be because companies like ASML make the machines that make the chips, but there is never an ASML inside label on the outside. So startups in this part of the Europe may have world-class technology. But they have to work 3 times as hard to get the attention of the public as well as investors. Fortunately the better accelerators realise this challenge and help the start-ups build a media strategy as well as finding a context for the new product or service.
Can I also say thank you to the Lean Startup Conference and the eco-system around it for all the inspiration and guidance you have given through books (we bought the Kindle versions), podcasts and blogs. We understand that content is king and putting the ideas to work in a new context is probably King Kong.
We're blogging about our adventures on these pages and we're always willing to share our experiences with those in this vibrant community.
Startupbootcamp HightechXL Barcelona Pitch Day from StartupbootcampTV on Vimeo.
Also a great opportunity to find out about our very different approach to accelerating high-tech startups.
Monday, September 16, 2013
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Monday, September 09, 2013
So is Elon Musk, the American entrepreneur, industrialist and inventor a sort of real-life version of fictitious hero Tony Stark, Marvel Comic's Iron Man? I don't think he really cares. He's got his hands full with ventures like SpaceX (space launcher) and Tesla (Electric cars) is hardly out of the headlines at the moment. The difference is that, in contrast to some others trying to develop alternatives to petrol engines, Elon has engineering at heart. Other companies are driven purely by design. That might work for an app. It doesn't seem to be working when it comes to designing an electric car - which is basically a giant battery on wheels.
Musk is worth following because he shares at least some of what he's up to. Look at his recent release on the future of design. It's like Microsoft's Kinect, but then in 3D. Why would hand gestures be useful? Because you have direct control over the navigation rather than trying to fiddle with a joystick.
SpaceX is exploring methods for engineers to accelerate their workflow by designing more directly in 3D. We are integrating breakthroughs in sensor and visualization technologies to view and modify designs more naturally and efficiently than we could using purely 2D tools. We are just beginning, but eventually hope to build the fastest route between the idea of a rocket and the reality of the factory floor. Special thanks to Leap Motion, Siemens and Oculus VR, as well as NVIDIA, Projection Design, Provision, and to everyone enabling and challenging the world to interact with technology in exciting new ways.
They Threw Away the Best Bits
Elon says the Model S has a useful range of around 400 km at the moment. The new car can charge at 120 kW, 60 times the power consumed by the average household. So the charger and battery need to perform a dance which needs to be monitored. Charge too fast and the battery will overheat (and could catch fire I suppose). Charge too slow and the customers start looking for alternatives. Public expectation is that the battery can be charged just a little slower than filling the tank with conventional gas. Science hasn't yet caught up, but you can be sure they are working on it.
By the end of this year, there will be supercharging stations in metropolitan cities in the US. It should be possible to drive coast-to-coast in the US and remain in range of an electric charging station. As far as Tesla is concerned, the first charging stations in Europe will be installed in Norway. These guys, who made their fortune with oil, have now bought more electric vehicles than anyone.
By the end of 2014, you will be able to be able to travel across Europe and charge the car through the network. And charging is always going to be free. The charging stations are powered by solar cells. Elon also explains why he got involved in the SpaceX project and his fascinating with the planet Mars. He points out that for the first few years they got no help from the government, relying on something like the Lean Startup Method in order to get across Geoffrey Moore's Chasm that faces most hardware entrepreneurs.
Saturday, September 07, 2013
At last Guinness breaks through the cliche beer commercial format, getting its message across to 2 million via YouTube in just a few days. I like it because it tells a story of real friendship and genuine team work.
Friday, September 06, 2013
|Always amazed that news crews are still using satellite trucks - and each station doing their own thing...|
|Like a White House press conference....|
The battle between the cities
Eindhoven: what next?
|Banners will still flying this morning in Eindhoven. Hope they don't rush to rip them down.|
The vast changes to the city as the result of globalisation meant that the whole region "pivoted". They converted buildings which were once the world's largest radio factory into design studios and apartments. And out on the HighTech Campus, where I have been busy recently, the mentality changed from guarding secrets into open innovation and collaboration.
Wednesday, September 04, 2013
That's because it would be unfair to dozens of teams who spent 30 minutes interacting with several mentors from the lead partners EY (formerly Ernst & Young) and Dutch Expansion Capital. You need "Chatham House" rules in order for both sides to be open with each other. It's all about trust, especially when the intellectual property could eventually be worth a lot of money. But I can say that the teams from several countries gave us all the backing we needed.
One team even went as far to say that access to Europe's Silicon Valley in the South of the Netherlands was even more important that his current sales activities in Palo Alto. "People forget that the Netherlands has trade agreements with hundreds of countries, making it so much easier to expand to other markets."
Most of the teams have ambition to expand their ideas to wider markets. For those on line who still want to be considered for the October 14th finals in Eindhoven, there are only 4 days left. September 8th is the deadline because we want to be fair to others. If you know teams that haven't yet heard about Europe's leading hardware accelerator, break the news to them today!
Here's a sneak peek as to who dropped by at the office for the Startupbootcamp HighTechXL side of the selection call. I was there too, but someone had to be behind the camera.
Know a great team that should be in Eindhoven for the finals? Then stop reading this and persuade them to head off to HighTechXL.com. They'll thank you for it, believe me.
|Patrick Gabriels, Eric van den Eijnden, Bart Lugard (seated), Eric Broekhuizen, Guus Frericks take a serious look at a great pitch. Bart and his team have screened 5000 potential companies.|
|Victoria Martinez and Nick Kalliagkopoulos also cast a sharp eye on the conversations coming in.|
Sunday, September 01, 2013
I know a couple of restaurants that purchased these kind of jammers. Although it brought peace and quiet, those on business duties (like doctors) quickly started avoiding the place. Their phones and beepers didn't work. I would avoid similar establishments. It should be offered as an open service, not a clandestine box for restaurant owners. That happy music makes it look like they are selling lollipops.
I suspect that authorities already use them at public demonstrations - have you seen how poor cell coverage is? Sometimes you also see very strong signals - so much so that I wonder if I am really connecting the right carrier signal. Just because it says Vodafone on the mobile screen is no guarantee is it?
I remember DATONG that used to build shortwave equipment for amateur radio operators (the Woodpecker filter), gave that up and went into building wireless networks of all kinds. David A Tong came up to Durham university in 1980 to explain about the company then. Very different to today.